Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Vladimir Nabokov
was born on this day in 1899. Here is a passage from Speak, Memory:

I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness — in a landscape selected at random — is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern -- to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.

In a sense his prose is like a rare butterfly, but with a beauty that is eternal, not ephemeral. When I first read him I do not remember, but the vision of 'Lo' will always remain in my memory.


candyschultz said...

I have been working on a comprehensive study of Nabokov for the last several years, reading his two volume bio, his memoir and all his stories and books. Also his letters and lectures. I got side tracked but will return one of these days.

James said...

That sounds like a huge project. I've yet to make it through all of his novels and would appreciate your recommendation of any particularly favorites of yours among his works.

candyschultz said...

Well I didn't say I liked his books. I think they are bound by time and place much more than many other authors. I suppose if I had to choose a favorite so far (I've not finished the novels either) it would be The Defense. You would think Lolita would be good and in a way it is. It brings to mind superbly the most tawdry aspects of America in the fifties. I prefer his short stories to his novels.

His biography is very interesting and I am also reading a bio of his wife Vera. I say reading but it has been a couple of years and I do need to get back to that project.

James said...

Thanks for the recommendations. Maybe I'll focus on his short stories - I can fit them in between other reading. And I have that biography of Vera Nabokov, so I'll have to put it on my (tall) pile of books to read.

candyschultz said...

My pile of TBR books is now a bookcase.